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2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S - First Drive

We track-test the 565hp Vantage

Greg Emmerson
Apr 7, 2014 SHARE

Highlights

  • AM28 V12 motor
  • 565hp, 205mph, 3.7sec
  • New automated-manual transmission
  • Fastest accelerating Aston to date

Technology

  • 6.0L V12 gets new Bosch engine management
  • seven-speed Sportshift III transaxle

Electronics

  • Three-stage adaptive damping
  • ZF Servotronic steering

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s front fascia 02 Photo 2/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Front Fascia 02

For such a small company, Aston Martin's product output seems to be in hyper-drive. It's as if every other month we're reviewing a new model, with the Vanquish, Rapide and DB9 appearing recently. And now the V12 Vantage S is making a great case for sports car ownership.

Regarded by many as the prettiest Aston of all, the Vantage began life with a V8, evolved to a V12, and now has an uprated 12-cylinder to justify its new V12 S designation.

This model replaces the previous V12 Vantage and power has risen from 510hp to 565hp. And while this is the same output as the new Vanquish engine, it's not exactly the same motor.

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s rear rear garnish 08 Photo 3/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Rear Rear Garnish 08

The AM28 V12 in the Vantage shares the architecture of the Vanquish engine - same block, bore, stroke and heads - but it has new Bosch management and dual variable camshaft timing among its upgrades, providing smooth throttle response and near-instantaneous grunt.

The V12 S also gets the seven-speed Sportshift III transaxle, rather than the Touchtronic II in the Vanquish. And to be honest, this is where the new car received most of its criticism.

While the Touchtronic is a fully automatic transmission with manual paddle shift control, the Sportshift is an automated manual. To all extents and purposes, both are operated in the same way: either select D on the dash-mounted gear buttons or tap one of the paddle shifters for manual operation. The differences are internal, with the Sportshift having a greater track focus, perhaps explaining why it wasn't popular on the road. Our test driver reported a ponderous shift at anything but high speeds, causing jerky progress in the $185k sports car - far from ideal.

And, of course, the traditional manual transmission is no longer available; something that might have resolved all the issues. However, the carmaker reports very little interest from its customers in having a third pedal, so the market has spoken (even if the market was wrong...)

Amid the slight controversy, Aston Martin wanted to prove there was method to the madness, and made the V12 Vantage S available to us at the Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida.

Although rather short and flat, the track did offer a high-speed straight and several technical turns to illustrate the car's prowess, so we set about exploring its ability.

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s driver side front view 07 Photo 7/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Driver Side Front View 07

Since we've already covered the car in a previous First Drive (EC 2/14), we're concentrating here on its sporting character. And the first highlight was the Sport button that altered throttle response, shift speed and exhaust note when pressed. The V12 already sounded good but with this button activated, it was spectacular, and surely one of the main reasons people will buy the car.

In fact, the car has a new exhaust based on the One-77 supercar from several years ago, bringing less weight, bulk and an improved aural performance.

With Sport mode selected, the V12 Vantage S came alive but you also need to activate the adaptive damping. The three-stage system allows Normal (providing surprising comfort), Sport and Track modes. We opted for Sport since it allowed the curbs to be ridden more easily. It also accessed the Sport setting for the ZF Servotronic power steering, giving it more weight and substance, although its 15:1 ratio was already an improvement over the previous models.

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s passenger side rear quarter view 09 Photo 8/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Passenger Side Rear Quarter View 09

So with everything set, we built up speed and again the V12 S was on our side. At the end of the back straight you need to scrub off about 100mph before the 180? right turn, but the stock carbon-ceramic brake discs and six-piston front calipers made a mockery of the braking markers. Within a couple of laps we'd halved our braking distance and could probably have gone deeper still, but for the concrete wall on its perimeter.

Using the paddles, the acceleration was swift, hitting 60mph in less than 4sec and reaching about 150mph on the short straight. The car was also wonderfully balanced, allowing delicate turn-in and early power application off the apex. It certainly wasn't nose heavy, thanks to the V12's rearward mounting position, and the transaxle helping it rotate. Admittedly, we kept the traction control on because I don't want to explain to my boss why we'd have to repair aluminum body panels and composite bumpers. However, it allowed a degree of slide and wheelspin before interjecting. And it was never impolite in its interruption, as you'd expect from the British...

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s interior 05 Photo 9/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Interior 05

Driven at high speed, either bouncing off the rev limiter or diving on the brake pedal, the gear shift quality was never an issue. It was as fast and precise as we wished, allowing plenty of engine braking with high-RPM downshifts. However, we were never driving slow enough to experience the low-speed hesitation and jerkiness reported by our colleagues.

So Aston has positioned the V12 S at the hardcore end of the Vantage spectrum, providing the V8, V8 S and Roadster as softer options if preferred. They even went to the trouble of underlining its intentions with a carbon fiber grille, hood vents, front spoiler and rear diffuser. It additionally gets forged ten-spoke wheels plus a black-painted roof and grille surround.

So while the V12 Vantage S didn't win outright plaudits at its initial launch, we'd like to revise our stance now we've sampled it in the correct environment. Aston Martin obviously feels there's enough depth in its model range and customer base to provide a more track-focused sports car that brings the same beauty and craftsmanship as its other sports cars, yet is able to mix it with the best for fast road or track use. It still has all the drama you want from an Aston Martin Vantage but with a little more attitude.

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s driver side profile 04 Photo 10/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Driver Side Profile 04

Pros

  • Design
  • Performance
  • Engine noise
  • Steering
  • Brakes

Cons

  • Transmission jerky on the street
  • No manual option
  • Price

Tech Spec

2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Layout Front/mid-mounted engine, RWD

Engine 5935cc AM28 V12 48v, Bosch injection, Dual Variable Camshaft Timing

Drivetrain Seven-speed Sportshift III automatic transmission, rear/mid-mounted transaxle, carbon fiber driveshaft, limited-slip differential

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s driver side front view 11 Photo 14/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Driver Side Front View 11

Brakes 398mm carbon-ceramic rotors, six-piston black calipers f, 360mm, four-piston r

Suspension independent double wishbones f&r, adaptive dampers

Wheels & Tires 19x9" f, 19x11" r ten-spoke forged wheels, 255/35 f, 295/30 R19 Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires

Exterior aluminum structure with aluminum, magnesium, composite and steel body

Performance

Max Power 565hp at 6750rpm

Max Torque 457 lb-ft at 5750rpm

0-60mph 3.7sec

2015 aston martin v12 vantage s AM28 V12 engine 03 Photo 15/18   |   2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S AM28 V12 Engine 03

Top Speed 205mph

Weight 3670 lb

Economy TBC

MSRP $184995

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By Greg Emmerson
1075 Articles

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